Antony and Cleopatra | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Antony and Cleopatra | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Agrippa and Enobarbus enter separately. Enobarbus says Pompey has left already and the members of the triumvirate are signing and sealing official documents. Octavia is unhappy about leaving Rome, and Lepidus is feeling the aftereffects of Pompey's party. The two men grab the chance to make fun of Lepidus, slavishly eager to please (and placate) Antony and Caesar. As they joke, a trumpet sounds. Enobarbus and Agrippa bid each other farewell as the triumvirate and Octavia enter.

Caesar and Antony still don't trust each other. Caesar tells his new brother-in-law he hopes sharing Octavia will keep them friendly. Antony assures Caesar nothing further will test their alliance.

Caesar says a fond goodbye to Octavia, who is weeping. Referring to either Antony or her late first husband, she asks her brother to look after "my husband's house." She and Caesar walk a few steps away to say a private goodbye while Enobarbus quietly asks Agrippa whether Caesar will also start to cry. Agrippa reminds his friend that Antony cried over the deaths of both Julius Caesar and Brutus, and Enobarbus tartly replies Antony was quite willing to mourn the two men whose deaths he had helped bring about. Trumpets sound as Antony and Octavia depart.

Analysis

Pompey's servants have already made fun of Lepidus; now Agrippa and Enobarbus are mocking him; this treatment implies Lepidus may not be around much longer, for he serves little purpose other than to be the object of mockery. Nor does Antony and Caesar's relationship look promising, and despite Antony's slightly artificial-sounding comment about Octavia's tears being the showers that bring on "love's spring" there's not much to show he and his bride are a happy pair.

For all Caesar's professed love for Octavia, when he speaks about her to Antony, he describes her as an inanimate object. She's a "piece of virtue," the "cement of our love" (that is, his and Antony's), and she'd better not be used as a battering ram to knock down the structure of the alliance. It's hard to imagine a more brutal image than a battering ram, and since Antony is a new husband (and one whose wife is standing right there), he might be expected to answer something like, "Of course I won't let my beloved wife be treated like that." But he doesn't even mention Octavia in his curt reply to Caesar. "You shall not find, / Though you be therein curious, the least cause / For what you seem to fear."

Octavia has good reason to cry. Her brother and her new husband have used her as a bargaining chip, and she's leaving her home. If she knew Antony in the past, she doesn't know him in the present; he has been living in Egypt for the past decade, so she has married someone she hasn't seen in at least 10 years. Caesar scorns Antony for his attachment to Cleopatra, but bartering away his own sister seems worse. Caesar bids his sister adieu—"farewell," rather than the more optimistic au revoir—"until we see each other again."

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